About Robyn Roste

My name is Robyn Roste and I'm a freelance writer in Abbotsford, BC. I help purpose-driven businesses translate their heart message into words so they can create meaningful connections with their customers.

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I’ve learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months of, well, learning how to write a non-fiction book proposal.

How to write a non-fiction book proposal

In the non-fiction world, book publishing starts with writing an amazing query letter. And after that? Send in your book?

Nope.

If you get past the query-letter round in non-fiction publishing you then move on to book proposal.

How to write a non-fiction book proposal

In 2017 I had a goal of pitching a book to an agent at a writer’s conference. Yes, OK I also wanted to acquire an agent but I knew it was a long shot. In my reading about the industry I knew the path to publishing was a windy road and there was so much I still had to learn.

But I did want to practice pitching (which is something I recommend doing often!) and I did want to get started. Doing it in person added that much more intensity. And live feedback. Yikes.

I knew enough to book appointments with agents who represented non-fiction and I practiced my pitch a few times over so I could deliver it without reading.

My query letter was prepped and printed and I had supplementary ideas and media kits printed off in the event I should need it.

However, I was not prepared for one agent asking me for my book proposal while I was pitching. It threw me off a bit, since in the conference instructions it said to limit my documents to a query letter. Whoops.

A second agent asked me to send my book proposal “in a few months.” In the moment I thought…a few months? I’ll have it ready next week!

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

Months Later

Uh…writing a book proposal takes longer than I thought. And even though it’s not the entire book it’s still a big project.

Here’s what I’ve learned in these months since the conference: a book proposal sells your idea to agents and publishers.

And the most important thing is to avoid outlining what your book is about but instead highlight why you’re writing it, who you’re serving and how your book will benefit your readers.

Oh, OK. So a proposal is like writing a business marketing plan. I can do that

In my research I’ve discovered there are many different ways of putting together a non-fiction book proposal.

While it’s important to craft your proposal to the specs the agent or publisher asks for, there are also common elements you can prepare ahead of time and reshape into each proposal you send out.

Common elements in a non-fiction book proposal

Overview

Your overview describes your idea and what you’re trying to accomplish. You want this to be succinct yet descriptive—in the marketing world it’s your elevator pitch; in the business world it’s your executive summary.

Depending on the agent or publisher, this should be between 500 words and five pages. Yes. That is quite a range. Pay attention to instructions.

elevator pitch templates

Free elevator pitch templates

I’ve added two elevator pitch templates as a free download to my resource library. This is a freebie you’ll need a password to access the library itself. You can get the password by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the “Freelancing” section and download “Elevator Pitch Templates.”

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Target markets/audience

It’s tempting to think your book will appeal to everyone or to the masses in general, but in the marketing world, the more niche, the better.

You want to know who you’re helping and what problems you’re solving. The more specific and detailed you can be, the better.

The goal of this section is to outline who will purchase your book so don’t hold back from diving into the world of your target reader.

Promotion/marketing plan

I’ve heard other authors describe this as the most important part of your proposal. Although it would be nice to sit back and let someone else be in charge of your marketing the truth is you need to champion your book like your book deal depends on it.

Cause, well, it does. This is the place where you call in every favour and think of any and every way to get publicity.

Overview your marketing plan with confidence and with as many actual numbers as you can. Outline your platform, present your numbers, and list every media type you can think of and how you plan to get coverage.

Competing works

Drawing attention other books just like yours may seem counter-intuitive but competition shows there’s a market for your work. In your competitive analysis list three to 10 successful titles published within the past few years and demonstrate how your book is different from these titles, without trashing them.

You want to create a case for a solid readership waiting for your work, which will complement other books already published in the genre.

About the author

You can repurpose your bio from your query letter and add a bit of flourish. Here you want to demonstrate why and how you are the right author to write your book.

Highlight any relevant experience, expertise and credentials. Answer the implied question, how are you qualified to write this book? Why should you write it rather than anyone else? Where are you already active?

Table of contents and chapter outline

Although you don’t have to have your book written yet, you do need to know how the book is going to look when it’s done.

This is like a map of your book and should include chapter names, section titles, subtitles and any other relevant information.

Outline each chapter by writing a brief summary. The big idea here is to help the agent or publisher know what to expect from your final product.

Writing sample

In this section you want to include between one and three of your strongest chapters, which will give the agent or publisher a good sense of your writing style and the overall book structure.

Remember, your non-fiction book proposal is what your agent will use to sell your book to publishers. You’re building a case for your book to be published.

You’re selling an idea, what you’ll do to promote and support it and enough of a writing sample to showcase your talent and skill.

No problem.

Other helpful posts on how to write a non-fiction book proposal

There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I've learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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In the non-fiction world, if you get past the query-letter round then move on to book proposal. There are many ways to put together a proposal but here is what I've learned about how to write a non-fiction book proposal in the past few months of, well, learning how to write a non-fiction book proposal.

How to Promote Your Writing on Social Media

When you’re a freelance writer it might seem a bit strange to promote your writing to others on social media but it’s an important step in marketing your work and showcasing your skills.

How to promote your writing on social media

How to promote your writing on social media

Your first thought might be that you can’t share your freelance writing either because it won’t make sense to your social media followers, you’re ghostwriting and it’s not exactly OK to take credit for ghostwriting or you’re under a confidentiality clause.

All very possible and very important reasons why you should not be sharing your stuff!

But that doesn’t get you off the hook. Maybe you can’t share your freelance work but you can promote your writing on social media.

By the way, optimizing your social media profiles is important! You want to ensure potential clients know who you are, what you do, and why they should hire you.

Download your free ebook from my resource library! All you have to do is pop your email address into the form below and I’ll send you the password.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the social media section and download the ebook called “Social Media Optimization.”

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Ready to promote your writing on social media? Here are a few ideas

Promote your writing idea 1. You can write a blog and share individual articles on social media as they publish.

1. You can write a blog and share individual articles on social media as they publish

Write and publish articles on your website or on a platform like Medium.

Whatever it is, you can share articles on LinkedIn, tweet links to them on Twitter, post about them on Facebook, talk about them on Instagram…you’re creating content, putting your work out there and engaging your followers all at the same time.

Blogs are brilliant.

Promote your writing idea 2.  What's your area of expertise? Create tips and tricks to help your followers improve in that area and post about them on social media.

2. What’s your area of expertise? Create tips and tricks to help your followers improve in that area and post about them on social media

Maybe you offer a tip per week on Instagram or perhaps it’s a Facebook Live video each month…whatever it is you’re showcasing your skills on social media and helping potential clients get to know, like and trust you.

Promote your writing idea 3. Have you written a book? Then why not talk about that on social media.

3. Have you written a book? Then why not talk about that on social media

Develop a content calendar and rotate through different ways to talk about your book—talk about who it’s for, what the benefit is to the reader, publish excerpts, put it on sale, etc.

Promote your writing idea 4. Post about what you learn.

4. Post about what you learn

Maybe you can’t post about the exact freelance work you’re doing but maybe you can post about ways you’ve learned to make it easier, more efficient, etc.

Have you learned about a new place to get great gigs? Why not share about that?

How about a new hack to get your brainstorms down in a quarter of the time? I’m sure people would love learning about that!

When you share about things you learn you become a resource for your followers—someone they want to hear more from.

Idea 5. If you can post your freelance work—do it! Share them all over social media.

5. If you can post your freelance work—do it! Share them all over social media

When you share your latest article or post try and talk about it in a way that is interesting rather than “Here’s an article I wrote, check it out!” While that works every now and then if you become someone who drops links and just expects your followers to read it because you wrote it.

Try and engage them by describing what’s in it for them if they take the time to click the link.

Extra credit: Build your freelance business with these five easy social media tweaks

For more ideas about promoting your writing check out these articles

When you're a freelance writer it might seem strange to promote your writing to others on social media but it's an important step in marketing yourself.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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When you're a freelance writer it might seem a bit strange to promote your writing to others on social media but it's an important step in marketing your work and showcasing your skills.

What is an Author Platform?

If you Google “What is an author platform?” you’ll see many, many sort-of answers. Because this isn’t a simple question. But I’m still going to try and answer it.

What is an Author Platform

What is an author platform?

In a nutshell, a platform is the sum total of ways you, the author, can sell your book.

But…what does that mean? What is an author platform? That answer doesn’t tell me anything!

Hah! I know. And people in general assume a platform is how many social media followers you have, and maybe at one point that was it, but since you can buy followers you can still have loads of followers and not sell any books. So that can’t be the only thing that makes up your platform.

I mean, it will make some of it.

Want to discover your ideal reader? This worksheet will help!

Pop your email address into the form below, confirm your email subscription and I’ll send you the password to my free resource library. Once you’re in look for “Discover Your Ideal Reader Worksheet” in the Writing section.

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Here are a few other things that make up a well-rounded author platform.

  • Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
  • Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
  • Personality and follow through—25%
  • Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

It kind of makes sense, right? When you pitch an agent or publisher they need to know you can motivate your existing readers, reach new readers and build strong relationships with your readers.

Here are a few other things that make up a well-rounded author platform.

- Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
- Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
- Personality and follow through—25%
- Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

A common follow-up question to what is an author platform is: does this apply to all authors?

Hah! Kind of? I know this isn’t quite how you pictured an author platform to look

From my research I’ve learned while almost all non-fiction authors need a platform, not all fiction authors do.

Although it’s overwhelming to think about building a thriving team of superfans when it’s hard enough to getting words on the page the more I think about it the more I understand why it’s necessary.

Publishing a book isn’t the hard part (although, like, that’s not simple)—selling your book is.

Think about it this way: let’s say you’re putting together a workshop and you’re partnering with a local venue as the host. Well, is it 100% up to the venue to sell the thing out?

No, of course not.

What is an Author Platform?

Sure they can help by spreading the word to their customers but it’s up to you to bring in your friends and fans. The ability to draw people in shows the strength of your platform. So make it strong.

One other thing to think about when asking what is an author platform is to consider everything you do as a contribution to your platform.

In-person connections are often stronger than online ones so don’t take those for granted. Think about the associations you’re a member of, the clubs you participate in and the hobbies you have.

If you think those could be channels to sell books then make sure they’re strong connections. Contribute to them and make yourself a valuable member.

Wondering how to grow your platform?

Here are a few ideas from Writer’s Digest.

  • Find out what your target audience is reading and publish articles or blogs in those outlets
  • Publish a body of work on your topic in a blog, newsletter, podcast, video blog, etc. to grow organic followers and fans over time and help you build authority in your niche
  • Attending events (or speaking at these events if possible) where you can expand your network
  • Find meaningful ways to connect with your target audience—put on events, run challenges, have promotions, etc.
  • Partner with people in your niche (either peers or influencers) to grow your reach and pick up new fans

Other posts about platform building and non-fiction writing

Here are a few other things that make up a well-rounded author platform.

- Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
- Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
- Personality and follow through—25%
- Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
If you Google What is an author platform? you'll see many, many sort-of answers. Because this isn't a simple question. But I'm still going to try and answer it.

Branding Yourself: Choosing a Niche

Have you ever wondered why people talk so much about branding yourself and your business?

I used to wonder this a lot.

branding yourself as a freelance writer

Maybe you’ve heard it in terms of choosing your niche (or “niching down”) or becoming an expert in a certain area or industry.

Or maybe you’ve been told to choose one thing and go all-in on it rather than being a generalist writer.

If you’re like most people, you resist the idea of branding yourself because you don’t want to miss out on paying work.

And I get it! However, today I’m going to tell you my story and why I took the advice to brand myself.

For my freelance business, focusing both brought in more paying work and the kind of writing I love to do. Amazing. Want to know more? Read on.

I got into freelance writing in a roundabout way.

Sort of.

When I was finishing my journalism degree I pitched stories all over the place, trying to get enough legitimate and varying clippings to be considered employable post graduation.

But once my portfolio was in good shape I stopped pitching articles and settled into blogging on my personal site instead.

After blogging for a while I began receiving emails requesting collaborations or offering sponsored post opportunities. How flattering! Also surprising.

I didn’t have any reason not to work with these people, companies, and brands so I did a variety of guest posts, sponsored posts, media events and promotional activities.

Lots of them over the years. And I enjoyed doing them, they gave me interesting experiences, allowed me to try new products, and I was able to meet a lot of interesting people.

For the most part, I was happy with my site. I wasn’t trying to make money so anything that came in was a plus.

Do you want the worksheet that goes with this training?

I’ve created a worksheet to complement this training, available for download. This is a free resource but it’s part of my resource library and you’ll need a password. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Then once you’re in the library, navigate to the blogging section and look for the worksheet called “Brand Elements.”

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And then everything changed

I would look at my blog from time to time and wonder what it was all about. Since it was always a general “lifestyle” blog (a word here, which is an umbrella term for personal website consisting of whatever I felt like writing about) I didn’t have much direction so I meandered about over the years.

A little writing about my journalism career, a little writing about my random jobs, a little writing about my travel adventures…whatever! And some promotional brand candy sprinkled in as it came up.

But then one day all the traffic stopped. Comments stopped. The money stopped. In stunned silence I looked around trying to figure out what had happened.

I realized my site had been punished for a search engine infraction. In fallout from one of the Google search updates, my site was no longer considered a positive contributor to the Internet.

From one day to the next I fell off the face of the blogosphere faster than…well, fast.

Branding Yourself: Choosing a Niche

Now, this was a few years ago.

And once I figured out what was going on and why I had a difficult decision to make. Do I start from scratch and rebuild everything or do I give up on my blog and try something else?

I knew it was time to start working on my freelance writing career and getting more clients but I wasn’t sure what to do.

Up until now clients had come to me and I was happy to write for whoever would pay me.

But now I had to put myself out there and try.

What kind of writer was I? What kind of clients did I want? And what kind of work did I need?

To be frank, it took me a while to decide what to do. I felt lost and ashamed.

Starting over seemed so difficult and I was afraid to go through all the work of building a website only to see nothing from it. But could I give it up? I loved blogging. Or did I? Was it just something I did because it was easy?

I had some soul searching to do.

And soul searching I did. For a couple years. I studied blogging, I took branding and social media courses, I learned about marketing and business, and I wrote down my writing and career goals.

And from all of this came a new direction. A clearer direction.

Towards a destination.

Even when I started down the path I had plotted out, I still wasn’t certain I had decided right, if that makes sense. I had a sense of direction and purpose but the view was still foggy. Also I was embarrassed. It was awkward to admit I was struggling.

When you’re feeling vulnerable it’s easy to compare yourself with others and allow that to hold you back and not get the help you need. But somehow I managed to push through it and kept asking questions and moving forward, step by step.

From this experience I’ve learned a lot about how branding yourself on your website or blog is good for search engine optimization as well as for attracting your ideal clients. But more than that, branding yourself is important for growing your business in the direction you want it to go.

When you’re desperate for work and a potential client approaches you waving wads of cash it is so easy to grab the money and take the gig so you can meet your immediate needs. And sometimes that’s just the way it is.

But if you want your freelance business to grow and mature then you need to work on branding yourself and that means figuring out what you want to write and for who.

Before you can figure out your brand you have to know a few things

  • Your ideal client
  • What problem you’re solving for your ideal client
  • Your focus/niche (what type of writing do you do? And what do you write about?)

When you know what you write and who you want to write for, it makes it a lot easier to attract those types of clients.

It also makes it easy for you to turn away work that doesn’t fit your brand. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but here’s the rationale: if you become an expert at one type of writing (aka really really good at it) then you become FAST at it.

And you don’t have to do as much prep work, pre-work, or research before you can dive into a job. When you’re writing about anything and everything you have to learn all about it before you can get to work. And while that’s fun sometimes, it’s not super efficient.

An online friend was telling me about how she does one kind of writing work: email sequences and sales pages for entrepreneurs. Now, that is quite specific.

However, she’s specialized in this type of writing and she knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s quick, she’s confident, and she has many, many happy clients.

By zooming in on this particular type of writing she’s able to maximize her writing time doing what she loves and what she’s good at. And she’s able to say no to the writing jobs that she’s not specialized at without feeling like she’s leaving money on the table.

I admire my friend because this is where I want to go. She’s a little further down the road from me and this helps me see the value in branding yourself, in choosing a niche, and in sticking with what you’re good at.

So, today I’m pitching you this idea of choosing a niche and branding yourself. And trust me, I know how much you might be resisting this idea. Because I did too

But here I am a couple years into my new and improved writing journey and I’m telling you, it’s amazing what a bit of clarity and direction can do for your writing business. And I’m only getting started.

Other posts related to branding yourself

Have you ever wondered why people talk so much about branding yourself and your business? Maybe you've heard it in terms of choosing your niche.

One more thing. I think you’ll enjoy my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
Have you ever wondered why people talk so much about branding yourself and your business? Maybe you've heard it in terms of choosing your niche.

Networking Tips for Introverted Writers

Here are some of my favourite networking tips for introverted writers.

Are you an introvert?

Are you a writer?

Do you know you need social skills in order to grow your business?

Me too.

networking tips for introverted writers

Networking tips for introverted writers

In November 2017, Jon Acuff stirred the introvert pot when he Tweeted,

“Is an introvert really an introvert if they won’t stop telling you they’re an introvert?”

It was a weird thing to say but I guess he was trying to be funny about it. If you’re an introvert you understand this is a basic misunderstanding of what an introvert is.

Part of the problem is there’s a dictionary definition for introverts saying they’re shy. But it’s not that.

Introverts have these basic tendencies

  • They enjoy alone time
  • They think best when they’re alone
  • Introverts wait to be asked for their opinion
  • They start shutting down after too much time out
  • OFTEN they are called “too intense”
  • They find small talk cumbersome
  • Being in front of a crowd is less daunting than mingling with those people afterwards
  • They feel like phoneys when they network

The last three points are the ones I’m interested in today.

How on earth do you network in a way that’s true to you when you hate small talk, making small talk with acquaintances is your worst nightmare, and you feel like a huge fake when you drag yourself out and do networking events?

Here are a few strategies I’ve implemented for not just surviving networking events but coming out of them with new relationships, clients and boosted business skills.

Networking tips for introverted writers

Networking tips for introverted writers

Tip 1: Set mini goals

Networking events are overwhelming but I’ve learned to manage my stress and anxiety by setting mini goals to help me feel like I had a successful outing. Here are a few I’ve used in the past.

  • Introduce myself to one new person
  • Collect three business cards
  • Explain what I do to one person using my elevator pitch

I love mini goals because the MOMENT I achieve it all the pressure is off and I can go back to being a wallflower. Because I did what I came there to do.

networking tips for introverted writers

Free elevator pitch templates

I’ve added the two elevator pitch templates from this post as a free download to my resource library. This is a freebie you’ll need a password to access the library itself. You can get the password by popping your email address into the form below.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the “Freelancing” section and download “Elevator Pitch Templates.”

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Tip 2: Be a helper

I love learning and I love attending conferences. However, the networking and being around people part is tricky.

Here’s how I turn things around: I volunteer. It gives me a purpose. When I have a purpose then speaking to people I don’t know is EASY. In fact, it’s fun.

Tip 3: Prepare ahead of time

Sometimes there are people-intensive things you just have to do. The best way I’ve learned to succeed in these times is to be over prepared. I research my location, the people I’ll be meeting with, the places I can retreat if I need some space.

By being prepared I don’t have to worry about what to expect…I already know.

Tip 4: Bring a friend

This sometimes feels like a cop out but if you have an extroverted friend who loves networking events…why not ask him/her to be your plus one?

You can’t use this as an excuse to stick to your friend all night but you can allow them to take the lead and help you network at your event. I’ve found this useful, especially when I’m attending media events.

Tip 5: Work out your anecdotes ahead of time

OK, this may feel silly and don’t go so far as writing them out on index cards unless you have to. But what if you prepared in advance for small talk? Think of opening lines, a few projects you’re working on, and some questions you can ask people you meet.

When you have it worked out ahead of time you won’t stress when you’re in the moment, panicking because you know you need to say something but you have no idea what would be appropriate.

Tip 6: Plan an exit strategy

This can be a strategy to get out of a conversation or a strategy to get out of the event altogether.

Think through what you’ll say or do so you don’t come off as rude or abrupt. “Powdering your nose” is one of those strategies, by the way, although I’ve never been brave enough to use it.

Here are a few networking tips for introverted writers. Maybe one of these strategies for networking and doing the people stuff  will work for you.

Networking tips for Introverted Writers: REMEMBER, NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU

Yeah, maybe that’s not very nice but it’s true! Everyone else at your networking event is just as wrapped up in him/herself as you are. Let this truth SET YOU FREE and relax.

Many introverts are drawn to writing as it’s—in it’s purest form—an isolated career path. Also introverts find self-expression easier with a pen than their vocal chords.

However, when you’re a freelance writer there’s all this…people stuff. So much people stuff. And it’s important if you want to do anything with your career like grow it. Or get clients.

Along the path of my freelance writing journey these are some of the strategies I’ve created for networking and doing the people stuff even when it’s not a natural skill for me. Maybe one of these will work for you.

Do you have any networking tips for introverted writers? I know this can’t be the only ideas out there and I’m always looking for new ways to get better at this skill.

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Here are a few networking tips for introverted writers. Maybe one of these strategies for networking and doing the people stuff will work for you.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
Many introverts are drawn to writing as it's (in it's purest form) an isolated career path. Along the path of my freelance writing journey I've learned a few strategies for networking and doing the people stuff even when it's not a natural skill for me. Maybe one of these will work for you.